Those Were the Days: Paperboy Pt. 3

My dad, bless his heart, would get me up at 5 a.m. every Sunday morning and we would drive downtown and load up the papers, and then sit in the car while we rolled them. He would drive me to my route I would load up my bag. When we arrived at the first house, which was Sheriff Rufe Jordan’s, I would lay my bag over the hood of our 1941 Pontiac Chieftain. It had large fenders and a hood ornament, so the paper bag couldn’t slide off the front of the car. I rode the fenders like a horse and Dad learned the speed to travel so I had time to throw both right and left. If the weather was bad, I would take the paper to the porch and protect it by using the screen door, which every house had back in those days.

There was one laundry and two little neighborhood stores on myroute. The laundry consisted of people leaving their clothes, etc. and ten women using the washing machines of that day with two tubs per machine for “rinsing” the clothes. Then they used outside clotheslines for drying them. The clothes were then folded and wrapped in brown paper with the customer’s name. Today we call these laundries . .. Laundromats. 

I used the little neighborhood store as a pit stop to get a Delaware Punch soft drink and a Cherry Mash candy bar. I also liked a coke with Tom’s peanuts poured into it! I sat out under a big old Elm tree and enjoyed my refreshments.

On Saturday mornings I would walk my route. This was the only time you actually met and talked to many of your customers. It was a great experience in human behavior. There were friendly folks and grumpy ones; always complaining about something. There were even those who would try putting you off in paying (remember it was only a quarter a week). I usually carried these people four weeks before I stopped delivery. That cost me a dollar out of my pocket.

I will never forget Odavem Spencer, who lived across the street from Jerry Sloan on Browning Street. Every Saturday morning, she would open the window if the weather permitted, and practice her “Ia-la-la’s” in her “operatic voice”! Boy could she belt out that sound. First, she would hit the note on the piano, then the la-la-la ... then the next higher note ... then the next higher la-la-la. She must have practiced her voice lessons every Saturday for at least an hour. I’ve often wondered if those lessons ever paid off!

Along with Jerry Sloan on my route, there were some more of my school classmates: Carol Waggoner, Jerry Bruce, Barbara Frye and Wayne Smith, Joe Clyde and Larry McWilliams, Tommy Lockhart, Allen Holtman, and Sammy Houchins and Mary Lynn Miller. I knew all their parents and what kind of cooks their mommas were!

Speaking of food, I had these two old maid nurses on Warren Street.

Every Saturday they would have a big piece of cake or pie or cookies and a large glass of milk waiting for me. They were in World War II in the European Campaign ... all the way from France to Germany. I would ask them something about the war and then sit spellbound, listening to them while eating my goodies! I always made sure their paper was on the porch!

One cold snowy Sunday rooming, Dad and I were sitting in the Pontiac rolling our papers and Dad lit up a cigarette. He had been a chain smoker for twenty years while working as a driller for Magnolia Oil Company, home of the “Flying Red Horse”! Anyway, as the car began to fill up with smoke, I started chocking and told him he needed to quit those things before they killed him. He reached in his pocket and took the pack out, crushed them in his hand and threw them out the window. That was his last cigarette! I’m happy to say my dad lived to the ripe old age of 98 .. . Good ol’ Dad .. .l don’t know what I would have done without him, especially on those frigid winter mornings when I could hardly feel my fingers; much less the papers in my hands.

One Saturday, 1 knocked on Jerry Sloan’s door and after inviting me in, I was hustled off to the dining room where another friend, Carol Foster, sat at the piano. Well, after singing a few songs with them, we decided to dance! On went the RCA 45 RPM record player and I got an hour’s worth of dance lessons which I needed really bad!!

Looking back at that wonderful time, I certainly never realized that the paperboy was a vanishing piece of Americana. I was a member of the last generation of kids on bicycles delivering the news to a news-hungry nation. There was the newspaper, the magazine, or the radio. There was no other media at that time such as TV or computers. Some of the news that I delivered to my customers concerned the assassination of Gandhi in 1948; Shirley Temple having her first child; SMU beating Oregon in the Cottonbowl in 1949 with a running back by the name of Doak Walker. Also that year Wild Bill Moore pinned the song “Rock and Roll” and those words are a legend today; in 1948 Berlin was divided; Israel became a nation; and in 1950 China and North Korea were driving the U.N. soldiers into South Korea and we were becoming involved in another war. Harry Truman was President.

So, the next time you come across one of those great old Norman Rockwell paintings from the Saturday Evening Post, take a close look at the paperboy on the bike getting ready to throw another batch of papers to his customers. That was me .. .I was part of that Americana ... and I miss it.

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